On Monday, we as a nation took the time to remember those who have served, who are currently serving, and who have given their lives in the defense of the United States of America and the values she stands for. We always appreciate what our men and women in uniform do and have done, but on Memorial Day, we take an extra step back to look at just how much our armed services have done to protect us and our way of life – and just how much it has cost them too. However, not many people think about how Memorial Day began, which is quite an amazing tale in itself.
On Memorial Day, the New York Post ran an in-depth article detailing the origins of Memorial Day. In this fascinating read, we learn that the first Memorial Day occurred right here in Charleston in 1865 during the Civil War. Freed slaves and abolitionists gathered in Charleston, now largely deserted by most whites after Union bombardment, to pay respect to the Union soldiers that had given their lives so that slaves may be free.
The first Memorial Day ceremonies took place at the city’s Washington Race Course and Jockey Club, which had been converted into a Confederate prison of harsh conditions, until it was abandoned as the Union army approached the city. A large group of black women descended upon this once cruel location, and proceeded to give proper reburial to the Union soldiers who had perished there. Once the site was prepared, a parade of 10,000 black schoolchildren, freed slaves, and white missionaries and teachers was held on the grounds. Once the parade was over, people “enjoyed picnics, listened to speeches and watched soldiers drill” – much like how many of us celebrate Memorial Day today.
In only a few short years from this event, the concept of Memorial Day had spread throughout the nation, becoming an event to pay respect to all who had fallen in the Civil War. Eventually, Memorial Day grew to encompass a day to reflect and appreciate all armed service men and women across our history, and to pay them the respect they so richly deserve.
The New York Times has another fabulous article regarding the origins of Memorial Day in Charleston. We invite you to shop the AbundaTrade.com online store for movies and books about our great military patriots, and hopefully gain some more insight into just how much our nation’s bravest have done to make our country safe and free.